Metaflex Flexible Metamaterial (Flexible MM): The Future of Adaptive Camouflage / Visual Cloaking Technology? The quest for invisible infantry soldiers continues.

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By David Crane
defrev (at) gmail (dot) com

November 6, 2010

DefenseReview (DR) has been publishing information on adaptive camouflage (a.k.a. electro-optical camfouflage, optical camouflage, active camouflage, chameleonic camouflage, invisibility cloaking technology, visual cloaking tech, visual spectrum cloaking tech, etc.) for quite some time. We’ve reported on both metamaterials (a.k.a. MMs, negative-index materials, negative-index metamaterials, and/or left-handed materials) research at Duke University and AAE/StealthIR developmental visual and thermal/IR spectrum cloaking tech, but there’s been an information lull over the last 3-4 years.

Enter Metaflex (also written “Meta-flex“), which is a flexible metamaterial (flexible MM) developed by a research team out of the University of St. Andrews School of Physics and Astronomy, Scotland, with some help from the Complex Light ERC Project (Department of Physics, University Sapienza, Italy) and the Bielefeld University School of Physics. The University of St. Andrews team is headed by Dr. Andrea Di Falco, who wrote the following about the Metaflex project:

My interest in Metaflex arises from diverse theoretical and experimental projects in photonic structures and nanofabrication and from the knowledge gained throughout these projects, including the physics and applications of MMs. This project contains many exciting scientific challenges, which offer the possibility of developing the extraordinary properties of MMs for every-day life applications that were unimaginable only a few years ago. Recently we managed to demonstrate that it is possible to fabricate Metaflex with a fishnet meta-atom, with a resonance in the visible. This could be the first step towards three-dimensional flexible metamaterials at visible frequencies.

Dr. Di Falco and the St. Andrews team placed a single layer of Metaflex material on a commercial disposable contact lens in order to “show the potential of the approach”.

The Metaflex adaptive camo/visual cloaking tech is interesting, but in order to be effective for military infantry  and/or Special Operations (SPECOPS) applications, an active electro-optical camo system must work effectively/successfully in all three (3) light spectrums (visible light, near-infrared (near-IR) a.k.a. night vision spectrum, and thermal/IR spectrum), must be lightweight, must be sufficiently flexible, must be comfortable to wear, must work reliably, must be durable, and must be cost-effective. If it’s too expensive, heavy, unreliable, fragile, uncomfortable, too stiff, or any combination of those things, it can’t be employed. In other words, the University of St. Andrews team has a pretty large hill to climb, and the climb will most likely be a long one, if it’s successful at all. Starting with non-flexible applications, like rendering main battle tanks and fighter/attack jet aircraft invisible may be easier. Then again, it may not be.

Defense Review will follow this technology very closely.

Metaflex is funded by a Career Acceleration Fellowship by EPSRC, according to the project web page.

Photo(s) Credit: University of St. Andrews, Scotland

Metaflex Flexible Metamaterial (MM) Contacts:

Dr. Andrea Di Falco
School of Physics and Astronomy
University of St Andrews
North Haugh
KY16 9SS
Tel. +44 1334 467336
Fax. +44 1334 463104
Email: [email protected]


Claudio Conti
Complex Light ERC Project
CNR-ISC Institute for Complex Systems
Department of Physics
University Sapienza
Piazzale Aldo Moro 2
00185 – Rome (Italy)
Tel. +390649693226
Fax +39064463158
Office: Fermi Building – Room 107
e-mail: [email protected]

Prof. Dr. Armin Goelzhaeuser
Raum D0-270
Bielefeld University, Germany
Telephone: +49 0521 106 5362
Email: [email protected]

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Metaflex Flexible Metamaterial (Flexible MM): The Future of Adaptive Camouflage / Visual Cloaking Technology? The quest for invisible infantry soldiers continues. by

About David Crane

David Crane started publishing online in 2001. Since that time, governments, military organizations, Special Operators (i.e. professional trigger pullers), agencies, and civilian tactical shooters the world over have come to depend on Defense Review as the authoritative source of news and information on "the latest and greatest" in the field of military defense and tactical technology and hardware, including tactical firearms, ammunition, equipment, gear, and training.

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